Rush University Medical Center officially opened the doors to an 830,000-square-foot facility on Jan. 9. And for all the attention to the hospital's focus on evidence-based and patient-centered design, not to mention its near-iconic status as a new architectural marvel in Chicago, one of the greatest attributes of the new facility will never be seen by patients, staff or visitors: Dramatic improvements in construction worker safety at the site produced staggering results.

Through a partnership with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Rush saw a 78 percent decrease in the project injury rate during 2009, the first year of the program.

In February of that year, Rush entered into the OSHA Strategic Partnership Program  to promote construction site safety and health during the project, which includes a $654 million, 14-story hospital and renovation of existing buildings. The OSHA recordable injury rate on the site fell from 24.1 in 2007 (one recordable injury per 8,330 man hours worked) to 1.7 in 2011 (one recordable injury per 117,156 man hours worked). The severity of the injuries decreased from serious to minor.

The OSPP required that all new construction workers attend a safety orientation; that the contractors conduct regular safety talks, site inspections and corrective action programs; and that all construction workers receive site-specific safety training. In addition, there was a 30-hour OSHA training courses taught by the project management firm's safety personnel.

OSHA representatives attended monthly safety meetings with representatives of Rush, contractors, union representatives and the Illinois Onsite Safety and Health Consultation Program, a state program that assists businesses in identifying and correcting work safety hazards.

Throughout this entire partnership, neither Rush nor its contractors were fined for safety violations, says Todd Green, director of occupational safety at the hospital. "It's been more of a consultative approach where OSHA has provided Rush with assistance. The result has been a safer job site," he adds.